Moving abroad is exciting. It’s an adventure in a new place, among new people, a new culture, and possibly even a new language. With so much to look forward to, it’s easy to forget about or put off the less fun things associated with relocation, such as the hassle of arranging your finances.
There are so many things for expats to consider when managing their money that the process can be complicated and overwhelming, which is why we’ve put together some tips for expat financial planning that would hopefully save you some time and possibly even some money.
There are a number of things to consider when it comes to banking. Fortunately, most of the required steps can be ticked off before you leave. With the multitude of things expats have to think about upon arrival in their new home, getting a handle on their banking beforehand will certainly save them time and whole lot of stress.
Don’t close your bank account at home
If you’re leaving for the long term, you may want to close the bank account in your home country, particularly if you’re paying high bank charges. That said, keeping it open can be useful, especially if you have bills that still need to be paid after your departure. In this case, make sure you have access to internet banking.
Your home country bank account can also be a useful place to stash some emergency cash, or to keep funds for when you visit, as you’ll be able to avoid losing money to exchange rates.
It’s important to inform your bank of your departure. Failure to do so could result in access to your account being denied.
Open a local bank account when you arrive
As soon as you’re able to, you should open a local bank account. While some countries allow you to do this before you arrive, many countries require you to apply in person or will only allow you to open an account after you’ve lived in the country for a certain period or can prove residency status. You may also need to secure accommodation first as some banks require proof of address when setting up an account. Having this account will mean expats with a local job can have their salaries paid into it and can also pay local bills online.
Open an offshore bank account
It may be useful to open an international bank account, also known as an offshore bank account. The pros of having one of these is that you’ll be able to make and receive payments in multiple currencies, ideal if you’re a multi-country expat. It can also be a good place to keep your money, especially in the period before you’re able to open a local bank account as this could be a few months. An offshore account also provides other benefits, such as favourable tax rates if opened in tax havens, and high interest rates on savings in long-term accounts.
Use a transfer service to move money between accounts
Once you’ve set up your local account you may want to have access to savings in your home account. As this will involve transferring money abroad, we recommend using an independent transfer service as, apart from the hefty fees banks charge for the same service, the exchange rates they use are generally not favourable. These are things you’ll need to consider when picking a transfer service, as well as the reputation of the company. Be sure to check out reviews and ratings before committing to a company.
Always have access to emergency cash
Things can and often do go wrong, which is why it’s imperative to have some funds in reserve and the means to access them. The last thing you’d want is to be stuck in a foreign country without any money and no way to get it. This is another reason why so many expats opt for offshore accounts, as they ensure convenience and access. You could have a dedicated card that accesses your funds from your home or offshore accounts to use in emergencies, or even a physical stash of cash. Whatever method you choose, make sure it’s fool proof.
Expat tax can be confusing, and it may not be the most thrilling part of your planning, but it’s vital to research your host country’s – as well as your home country’s – tax requirements before you leave.
Be aware of your tax requirements
While doing your own research is crucial, it may be worth your while to solicit some professional advice when it comes to your taxes.
Some countries don’t expect you to pay tax while abroad, while others have a double tax agreement, meaning you must pay tax in both countries even if you’re only earning in the one. Many countries also consider expats tax residents after a certain amount of time, making them liable to pay tax on their worldwide income as opposed to only the one country.
Look into possible refunds
Something you should keep in mind when living abroad is that, if you’re only living in a country for a portion of the tax year, you may be eligible for a tax refund when you leave. You will pay tax on your entire salary but, if you haven’t worked for the full tax year, you may be able to claim some of it back.
Similarly, if your employer has paid a portion of your salary towards a pension or superannuation fund but you aren’t eligible to retire in the country, you may be able to claim this money back when you leave.
Everyone enjoys the idea of retiring with a decent pension, but it will take some careful planning and research.
Home country pension
Expats planning a short-term move should investigate how they can continue to contribute to their pension in their home country while living abroad. This is another reason to keep your home bank account.
If you’re planning to retire abroad, you should also look into how you’ll be able to access your pension from your home country. On top of this, you’ll need to consider how your new home country’s tax system will impact your pension. You could end up losing quite a bit of money if you don’t plan this carefully, and it may therefore be well worth enlisting the services of a retirement consultant.